VERMONT (NEWS10) — The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) is warning Vermont taxpayers about a new wave of COVID-19-related scams as the agency delivers the second round of Economic Impact Payments.
In the last several months, IRS-CI has seen a variety of Economic Impact Payment scams and other financial schemes designed to steal money and personal information. Those stealing the information are taking advantage of the second round of Economic Impact Payments, as well as the approaching filing season, to trick taxpayers out of money.
“IRS-CI is committed to investigating allegations of Covid-19 related fraud,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Joleen Simpson. “Together, with our law enforcement partners and the Office of the United States Attorney, we will continue to identify, investigate, and prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, anyone engaged in these types of fraud schemes.”
Some common COVID-19 scams include:
- Text messages asking taxpayers to disclose bank account information claiming they will receive the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments
- Phishing schemes using email, letters and social media messages with key words such as “Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus” in different ways. These communications are blasted to large numbers of people and aim to access identifying and financial account information, including account numbers and passwords
- The organized and unofficial sale of fake at-home COVID-19 test kits, as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills, and professional medical advice regarding unproven COVID-19 treatments
- Fake donation requests for individuals, groups and areas heavily affected by the disease.
- Fraudulent opportunities to invest in companies developing COVID-19 vaccines while promising that the “company” will dramatically increase in value as a result
Although criminals are constantly changing their tactics, taxpayers can help protect themselves by knowing how the IRS communicates with taxpayers. The IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails, call people with threats of jail or lawsuits, or demand tax payments on gift cards.
COVID-19 scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form. The NCDF is a national coordinating agency within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division dedicated to improving the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies.
Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration online.
Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information should forward the message to firstname.lastname@example.org.